Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2010 reviewed

Seeing as I haven't posted since April(!), I decided that I would start the new year by recapping the shows I saw, remembered and liked in 2010. I'm not reviewing or commenting on the shows, I will just create a list. I just wish to document those shows and artists I enjoyed seeing, and, clean the slate in the event I continue to blog in 2011. The following list is semi-chronological and not in order of preference:

The Fiery Furnaces & Shilpa Ray and the Happy Hookers @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
Earl Greyhound @ Brooklyn Bowl & Siren Music Festival & The Bowery Ballroom
Free Energy @ Brooklyn Bowl
Ra Ra Riot & The Antlers @ Brooklyn Academy of Music
Wild Beasts @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
Zeus @ The Knitting Factory
Freelance Whales @ Mercury Lounge
The Uglysuit @ The Living Room
Tami Lynn @ Southpaw
Phantogram @ Mercury Lounge
Clogs @ The Bell House
Spoon @ Mercury Lounge & Radio City Music Hall
The Thermals @ Brooklyn Bowl
LCD Soundsystem @ Webster Hall
Sleigh Bells @ Ridgewood Temple
The National @ Radio City Music Hall & The Wellmont Theatre
Woods & Real Estate @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
Screaming Females & Surfer Blood & Ted Leo & Cymbals Eat Guitars @ Siren Music Festival
Marianne Dissard @ Joe's Pub & MoMA
Pavement @ Central Park Summerstage
The National @ KB Hallen, Copenhagen
The Figurines & The Kissaway Trail @ Super Vega, Copenhagen
Chairlift @ The Knitting Factory
Guided by Voices @ Maxwell's, Hoeboken

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Ok. So I am taking so much time in between posts that they are beginning to seem irrelevant. However, I've seen so many terrific shows over the last few months that I am determined to write about every last one of them, even if it takes me until next April. So here goes.

I saw Spoon at Mercury Lounge back on January 21st at their semi-unannounced show to promote the, at the time, soon to be released new record . Some advanced tickets were sold the day before but a friend tipped me that same day -- he picked it up on Twitter of course -- that they were going to release a number of tickets the night of the show. So I headed down to the Merc and got in line at around 4 (it was well worth the wait) and I managed to sneak a couple of late comers in line with me. They really wreaked the place. I've been a big fan of the band since they jumped to Merge Records back in 2000 and have seen them live a couple of times. Getting the chance to see them in such an intimate space was electrifying. The energy was intense and the performance even more so. Indie rock, if sounding cliched as a label, never sounded more alive and original. Britt Daniel crafts songs that move, groove and sooth you, sometimes all at once. I can't praise this band enough and urge everyone to try to seem them live. The night was made even more special by the fact that Alexander Even of The White Rabbits joined in for a few numbers (Britt produced the new TWR record) and I got to say hello to pop punk impresario Ted Leo who was in the audience.

In contrast, but no less entertaining, I also saw Spoon's March 26th show at Radio City Music Hall. The band further fined tuned the lo-res rock off the new record Transference while also tossing in a number of their past rock ready tunes. Though one might think a band of such "quiet" aspirations might not be able to fill such a big room, au contraire mon frere (in fact, the show was sold out.) The room was built to Spoon. The acoustics are tailor-made for a musician, and band, that bounces sound and ideas off every corner of a space whether it be the Mercury Lounge or the Showplace of the Nation. Like the Mercury Lounge show, special guests were in the house; Eleanor Friedberger (The Fiery Furnaces), Dan Boeckner (Handsome Furs) and Alexander Even (White Rabbits) all joined in on the fun.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Freelance Whales & The Uglysuit

On January 20th at the Mercury Lounge I got to check out Freelance Whales, a hot new act out of Queens and soon to be out on the Frenchkiss label. With a name that defies category (wouldn't Pod of Whales make more sense?), their sound further defies description. However, bands like Ra Ra Riot and Broken Social Scene do come to mind. If not for shared sounds for shared spirit. Freelance Whales melodic harmonizing and bold instrumentation is incredibly warm and fuzzy and daring and delicate. Primarily an acoustic act, the band produces textured music with powerful rhythms and a keen sense of melody. The orchestrating of banjos and guitars, harmoniums and laptops, tambourines and keyboards further illustrates the musical menagerie. If Doctor Parnassus and his imaginarium traveled with a house band, Freelance Whales would be it. There are no fewer than five people on stage at anytime and they are constantly swapping instruments making the experience feel more spontaneous and energized than calculated. But don't be fooled, these Whales know exactly what they're doing crafting soundscapes of sentimentality and memorable baroque-pop arrangements that will get under the skin of the most hardened hipsters. Judah Dadone leads the group chanting and is the groups' spiritual and vocal center. His high range perfectly complements the kaleidoscope. It's amazing to think all this once occupied the platforms of the NYC subway system, and sometimes still does, further adding to their myth and allure. But not to worry, these Whales are playing more traditional venues around town in anticipation of their debut release. They've opened for Mumford and Sons recently and will be headlining again at The Music Hall of Williamsburg in March. Swim with them as soon as you can.

Just hours before the Freelance Whales show at the Mercury Lounge, I was able to catch a free set by the Oklahoma City sextet The Uglysuit and their name too seems a misnomer. Though the longhair hides most their faces, the beautiful sounds are front and center. "As frontman Israel Hindman's soft voice soars over cascading guitars and keys, the band can jump from dream pop to Southern rock or Beach Boys-like psychedelia-in one song." I liked these guys a lot. The songs are at the same time wistful and wonderous. They've just released their debut on Touch and Go and will be swinging through NYC again soon. Try them on.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Fiery Furnaces

I'm afraid I am not doing a very good job of staying current with my concert going posts. I must and will try to be more diligent.

Regardless, I didn't want to blog about any more recent concerts until I wrote about my last show of 2009; The Fiery Furnaces on December 11th at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. I've been a fan of the band's since their 2003 debut, Gallowsbird's Bark and have seen them a half dozen times. The band is lead by the brother/sister team Eleanor and Matthew Friedberger. Because of the garage blues elements of their sound, they have often been compared to The White Stripes. They remind me more of an artier version of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion or Boss Hog; two bands that TWS may draw some comparisons as well. Though their records lean toward the conceptual, their live performance was an edgy rocking affair that teetered on the brink of experimentation. They displayed the incredible musical interplay that has become their trademark with Eleanor, Matthew and bassist Jason Loewenstein prodding and cajoling one another. Their live shows, and this was no different, each seem to take on a life of their own with the band improvising and expanding songs continually, adding to the experimental feel of the performance. Every live show you feel like your discovering something, or someone, new. Add to the mix Eleanor's channeling of Patti Smith (down to the tweed overcoat she wore when she enter the stage) and the songs take on an even edgier feel. She even seems to be sometimes reciting the lyrics. All of this builds a Fiery mood and groovy tempo that is challenging and rocking at the same time. N.B. Eleanor is married to Franz Ferdinand lead singer Alex Kapranos. Could there be a Future Fiery Franz Furnace Ferdinand collaboration? We could only Fantasize.

It's worth mentioning the opening act who I enjoyed a lot, Shilpa Ray and the Happy Hookers. Formerly of Beat The Devil, Shilpa hits you with her harmonium (and vocals) like a first punch in the face. Don't duck, it's pretty awesome.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists

Fortunately, I planned ahead and caught the sold-out Ted Leo and the Pharmacists show on Sunday, December 6th at The Bowery Ballroom; " can count on one hand the amount of live acts currently playing venues like that one better than the Pharmacists." The Village Voice. And, like every time I've seen Ted Leo in the past, the show was energized and arresting. And this show was that and more, a lot more. Teddy and the band played 23 songs and were on stage for 90+ minutes. I never did follow Ted Leo's first number of bands (Puzzlehead, Animal Crackers, Citizens Arrest or Chisel), though I believe I did see the short lived incarnation of Sin-Eaters at Brownies back in the mid-nineties -- I think he performed with his youngest brother Danny at that show (full disclosure: I'm good friends with Teddy's two younger brothers both exceptional songwriter/musicians in their own right). However, I have been a long-time fan of Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, ever since their second record The Tyranny of Distance (2001). Since then, I've seen TLatP a dozen times and he never disappoints. This show featured a ton of older familiar material; he opened with 3 songs from the album Shake the Sheets (2004), closed with two songs off Tyranny of Distance and mixed in 5 songs from Hearts of Oak (2003). All first rate recordings capturing Ted Leo's unique brand of three-chord pop punk reminiscent of bands like The Jam, Buzzcocks and Green Day (another former Lookout! Records act). But the real highlight may have been all the new material Ted featured from the upcoming The Brutalist Bricks LP. "New songs included 'The Mighty Sparrow' (sounds pretty mighty), 'The Stick' (punk!), 'One Polaroid A Day' (woozy), the old/new 'Where Was My Brain,' 'Bottled and Corked,'" and the soon to be fan favorite"Even Heroes Have to Die", Matador has made this track the lead single and downloads can already be found online. You can also check out a recording of the entire 12/6/09 show at nyctaper. If there's one show I guarantee won't disappoint, it will be Ted Leo and the Pharmacists tour to support the upcoming album The Brutalist Bricks. And, be sure to plan ahead. I will.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Marcellus Hall and the Hostages

All right! So, I saw Marcellus Hall and the Hostages last Friday night at Union Hall and, at the risk of sounding too cute, the band held me hostage for their entire set. Yeah, too cute. Of course, I was a already a fan of both Mr. Hall's previous incarnations, Railroad Jerk and White Hassle. Those bands embraced a more punk blues vibe. His new work has dropped the punk and added more soul with a greater hint of southern gothic. A sort of "neo-soul" in the spirit of Bon Iver, M. Ward and Langhorne Slim. The energy and soul Marcellus Hall brings to all his music is entertaining and inspiring. Until recently, he had been performing solo and I believe most of the songs are born out of that period. However, by abandoning his solo politic and adding a band, the Hostages, it seems he has added a more rocking and uptempo sound to what are a very smart and sweet collection of songs ("Some people like to stick to their own kind, but love is elusive and blind." Broken Phone, or, "Well your the only one in this world that I adore and I'm always laughing with you, I'm not laughing at you anymore." Laughing With You). Marcellus mentioned he's going to record with the Hostages soon. I can't wait. And, I hope it means they'll be playing out in New York more soon. You will not be disappointed. It should also be mentioned that Mr. Hall is a very fine illustrator with a few New Yorker covers under his belt. Check that work out too. Like his music, it is entertaining and inspiring.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sleigh Bells

Yes! I saw for the second time the best new band, Sleigh Bells, last night at Le Poisson Rouge and I'm still smiling! The big buzz has not been overstated; the band is going to be huge, like their sound. The duo is made up of one-half delicious diva Alexis Krauss and the other half, former hardcore maestro (Poison the Well) Derek Miller -- as their bios will eventually confirm, they met one night when Derek waited on Alexis and her mom at the Brazilian restaurant he was working. I wish I could say I "discovered" this band -- two people, one booming guitar and an iPod -- but I can't. Though I have seen two of the only four live shows they have ever done, I first read about the Brooklyn based electro dance-pop band in The New Yorker -- they're Sasha Frere-Jones favorite current New York band. What I can say with the utmost confidence is that they are awesome. Words like "epic", "sonic", and "massive" don't seem to be descriptive enough. How about "epsonssive"? Ok, too cute but it's a bigger word than those puny ones and does seem to capture the heft of what's going on here. As for what Alexis is singing about, that seems almost besides the point. Her "ahh-ahh-ahhs" are the best part. You'll be so mesmerized by her "business of bouncing", and dazed by Derek's "caveman beats", that the lyrics will feel and sound right regardless of whether they're audible or logical. Sleigh Bells brings everything from The Ting Tings and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to Run-DMZ and PJ Harvey, but they do it their way with their own curvy, glossy pop drama. And, don't let the distortion and sub-woofers throw you that's what we like. So lie back, or get up and clap and dance, whatever you do check this party out.